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Pahiatua Children

On 1 November 1944, 733 children, mostly orphans and half orphans, arrived in Wellington Harbour. Some 100 adults - teachers, doctors and administrators - accompanied the group to Pahiatua where a camp was established to give a temporary home for the children.

The entrance to the new home read "Polish Childrens Camp in Pahiatua". As far as the children were concerned this was their little Poland.

A number of books have been written about the children of Pahiatua but the main one, "The Invited", written by their teacher and the Principal of the Boys' Primary School Krystyna Skwarko is being located on this web-site through the kindness of Krystyna Tomaszyk, the daughter of Krystyna Skwarko.

Also included on this site are photographs of the Pahiatua camp and the children. These photographs were assembled and children identified by Joseph and Stefania Zawada of Wellington., both of Pahiatua Camp.

It is interesting to note that in 1947 and again in 1948 the Warsaw regime (the Communist regime dominated by USSR) demanded that the children be returned to Poland, but the New Zealand Government refused. Prior to the request, the Consul General, Dr K. A. Wodzicki, in co-operation with the Polish authorities in London (the then Internationally recognised seat of the Polish Government) and the New Zealand Government had formed Guardianship Council for the Polish children in New Zealand. This council which comprised of three New Zealanders and five Poles was approved by the highest court in New Zealand in May 1945. The council was presided over by Dr J. P. Kavanagh, Bishop of Dunedin.

Following formation of the council, the children were prepared for their permanent life in New Zealand. The teaching of English was intensified and some were given the opportunity to enter private Catholic schools in New Zealand Accommodation was provided in boarding houses in Wellington and Hawera.

Now in 1999, 55 years after their arrival, the Pahiatua children can look back with pride at their significant achievements. From personal knowledge and observation it is my view that:

  • They all retained their Polishness, their language and sense of their history - truly a remarkable achievement.
  • They all retained their Catholic religion with special devotion to Our Lady, the Queen of Poland
  • They all retained a special bond and concern for one another - one large family.

They all became good citizens of New Zealand, contributing significantly to the development of economic, cultural and religious life of the country, more than repaying the people of New Zealand for their generosity in 1944.

The Pahiatua children, in reality, were not immigrants to this country. They were guests, invited for a short but undetermined period of time in 1944.

The plan was for them to go back home to Poland, but because that part of Poland where the children had come from, Eastern Poland, was incorporated into the USSR following the Yalta Agreement, they had no home to go back to. Their homes and possessions were confiscated, their families were either murdered or transported to Russia, so there simply was no point going back to a place that had ceased to exist. The New Zealand Government gave the children permanent residency and many became N.Z. citizens.

John Roy-Wojciechowski
(known in Pahiatua Camp as Jan Wojciechowski)
Honorary Consul

Auckland, New Zealand
July 1999

Books by Pahiatua Children

The Invited

by Krystyna Skwarko

The Story of 733 Polish Children who grew up in New Zealand
Millwood Press, Ngaio, Wellington 1974

the invited  

A Strange Outcome - The Remarkable Survival Story of a Polish Child

by John Roy-Wojciechowski and Allan Parker

Penguin Books Auckland, NZ; 2004
[288p., 27 photos] 
Order a copy of the book

NZ Herald interview with the Author

short excerpt (p. 58)

a strange outcome  

An Unforgettable Journey

by Maria van der Linden

Dunmore Press Palmerston North,  New Zealand
(1992) (232p.)


Other books on the Consular Page related to Pahiatua Children and Polish Emigrants:

Tułacze Dzieci / Exiled Children
internet edition of the
chapter on Pahiatua Children

Further Reading

The Invited by Krystyna Skwarko

Stolen Childhood by Lucjan Krolikowski, Q.F.M. Conv. (in Polish and English) ISBN:0-9691588-0-7

Isfahan-City of Polish Children by Irena Beaupre-Stankiewicz and others
ISBN 0 9512550 1 0

Exiled Children (Tułacze Dzieci) by the office of the President of the Republic of Poland and others. (In Polish and English).
ISBN 83-77079-435-X

Individual stories cannot be forgotten, most of us will never publish our stories and therefore Polish Heritage Trust has provided facilities for individual Pahiatua children to write their stories and place them on a web-site for others to see for their grandchildren to read and for the rest of the world to remember.

Each family, each child had its own place in life. Each story is different. Yes they do have a common theme, yes they do have the same pattern in life - Russian aggression, hardship in Siberia or Uzbekistan, a period of reconstruction of life in Persia and Pahiatua camp, a period of personal and social growth, retirement and remembrance.

Polish Heritage Trust encourages those stories and will have them available on this page for all to enjoy.